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Starfaring Species in Really Wild West (part 3 and finale)

This is the third and final part of a series of articles looking at how to contextualize the starfaring species of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game into the world of the Really Wild West, a setting hack that uses the science-fantasy rpg for a campaign with magic, monsters, and weird science in an alternate Earth in 1891.

When looking at the Starfinder Roleplaying Game species for things I can use to tie them to a fantasy-science-fiction-pulp version of the real world, sometimes I have gone with cultural or game ability elements… and sometimes I have leaned on fantasy versions of biology, as is the case with shirren, vesk, and ysoki.

RealWildWest-Races-color-01

Shirren

Shirren are big bugs, which means they should have evolved someplace that supports larger arthropods. The largest land-dwelling arthropod currently in existence on Earth is the coconut crab, which is found on islands in the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Assuming they originated in the same regions in the timeline of the Really Wild West, shirren would have built their own island cultures (perhaps in conjunction with other species, perhaps not), and spread in Ancient times as trade blossomed throughout the Indian Ocean. This takes our ancient shirren to China, Egypt, India, Java, Somalia, and southeastern Europe. While they would have spread worldwide from there, I assume those regions along old trade routes going through the Indian Ocean still have the largest, most integrated populations of shirren. That gives me guidance on what cultures they might be drawn from, and what traditions they could have, without claiming something small-minded like “Arabs are shirren” (which erases real Arabs and eliminates numerous cultural advancements, historical figures, and real-world ethnicities from being part of RWW, and is also pretty structurally racist).

Vesk

Australia leads the world in reptile biodiversity, so that’s where I am having my vesk evolve. That has vesk populations being tightly concentrated in Australia, New Zealand, and surrounding islands. I’m guessing I’ll need to add a frontier wars or “Lizardman War” (as the colonial powers call it) between the British Empire and various vesk groups at some point, and chances are the vesk lost. But by now, they’re at least partially integrated, and some will have travelled throughout the British Empire, despite suffering a fair amount of racism. While vesk likely have a lot of native culture that impacts their fashion, those that travel abroad are likely to adopt Western clothing sensibilities when in western nations, including the Really Wild West.

Note that this is a change from my original thoughts on vesk, which was to make them the product of Doctor Moreau’s anthropomorphization of animals. I can hold on to that idea for more minor species (as I add them), but it ended up feeling too limited for a “core” species, and had some connotations I wasn’t comfortable with.

Ysoki

In the real world, rodents are populous on every continent except Antarctica. They date to the Paleocene on the supercontinent of Laurasia, spread across landmasses, crossed oceans, and pretty well got everywhere (even Australia) on their own, without human intervention.

So as much as I am tying most starfaring species to specific region of the Really Wild West? Ysoki are everywhere.

And they got there first.

With cheek pouches as built-in bags (allowing them to carry goods—even water—long distances before the invention of sacks or gourd-bottles), bonuses to Stealth and Survival, and darkvision? Ysoki were the main competition with humanity for global domination. Much as there were Neanderthals and other cousins to homo sapiens sapiens who didn’t make it, there were multiple lines of ysoki through the ages, though none of this is well understood in the RWW year of 1891.

In general, every culture has a ysoki element to it. There are sure to be exceptions—Egyptian cat-worshipers may not have taken to ysoki citizens, some ysoki clans likely existed in regions without significant human presence.

But the core assumption in Really Wild West is that ysoki are everywhere from the most remote, paleolithic cultures, to the suit-wearing bankers of New York.

Speaking of context!

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Setting/Writing Prompt: Lok

The Geigamorphs can become anything, and turn anything into more of their kind, and mix with anything. No one knows where they came from, but they are destroying the world.
But every once in a rare while, when two Geigamorphs meet, the attack one another. And if one dies at another’s hand, it always turns into a weapon. No one knows why, and what random is entirely random.
That weapon never changes, and it can kill Geigamorphs, though not easily. But it can only be wielded by someone it locks onto… and that’s a one-in-a-few-million chance, apparently also at random.
And when it does? That person gains vast strength, endurance, resilience, and speed. And? Their physical form never changes again for more than a split second. If wounded, they heal. If they eat, it just goes away. If they were groggy when they were locked? They’re groggy forever.
You get a lock weapon near enough someone who it can lock onto, it’ll pull them to it.
So the last lines of defense send “loks,” people set in a single physical state forever, into zones with lots of Geigamorphs to find more lock weapons. then they take those to population zones, to lock them to someone.
And that person’s life changes forever… but their body never changes again.
They’re a Lok.
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Sigils and Sorcery

Sigils and Sorcery

And entirely random campaign setting idea.

In the Age of Achievements, the Empress of the Bhan created the Sigilbhan, a massive, complex rune that granted her and her agents the power to detect and quarantine evil outsiders and undead, so that no matter how powerful they were, they would be locked away rather than return to the outer planes and reform as new horrors.

Sadly one of the Empress’s son, Drau, believed that as a loyal agent of the empress he deserved rewards and power for working to promote good and overcome evil, and asked to be given the power she used the Sigilbhan to lock away. When she refused, telling him that the reward for doing good was a word with more good in it, and his actions did not prove true virtue if he performed them only to receive worldly rewards, Drau secretly swore to take the power by force.

Drau created his own rune, the Feldrau, which could infect the spirit of those it touched, and used it to turn many of the people of the world into drau-versions of themselves.

It is unclear if the people were once all one, but as the feldrau tainted those it touched, the became the drau-elves, drau-dwarves, drau-gnomes, dra-orcs, and drau-folk humans.

Drau lead an army against the Empress, drawing on the power of the Sigilbhan to grant his drau-forces powerful sorcerous abilities, shadowed versions of the true magic of the sigil.

He believed the Empress could not defeat Drau without shattering the Sigilbhan, which held vast planar evil within it which would be unleashed. The Empress tried to leach more power into the minor sigils of her agents, but when that did not stop Drau, she shattered he Sigilbhan, destroying or altering all Bhan and driving Drau and his most powerful agents mad with the sigilshock. Then, before the dark powers within the Siiglbhan could escape, she healed the Sigilbhan with her own soul energy—ceasing to exist in any form. The Sigilbhan now has no mistress, and it’s form is imperfect, leaking fel sorcerous power into the world.

The Bhan Empire fell. Darkness, both supernatural and just that born of fear, greed, hunger, and jealously, tore the empire apart. Lesser evils that had hidden in the edges of wastelands of the Bhan Empire rose and spread, causing wyverns, and giants, and aberrations to overrun much of the world.  And brigands, tyrants, and thief kings did much the same.

But the Sigilbhan, sigils, and sorcery continued. Nearly two centuries have passed, and scores of small kingdoms, city-states, and warlords have arisen.

The sigilbearers have inherited minor sigils, those given to agents and nobles who rules under the Empress, though such power is inherited, and while sigls have great power of light, such power *can* be used for evil.

The imperial church worships the person of the Empress in the form of the Sigilbhan–they know her sacrifice destroyed her intellect and consciousness, but believe the remaining sigilbhan, which mostly just fuels the sigls and slowly leaks the dark powers used for sorcery, is a deity and if enough belief and good will is focused into it, it shall be reborn into a true deity.

Sorcerers take the fell planar power leaking from the Sigilbhan and use it to create powerful magics. Though the source of their power is vile, the sigilshock destroyed the most powerful feldrau sorcerers, leaving Imperial agents who had studied drau as the most powerful source of sorcerous study. Most sorcerers claim they *must* convert the power of darkness leaking from the sigilbhan into other magics, or it will turn into native demons and haunts… though the imperial church generally disagrees, and sorcerers are sometimes tainted, and become drau.

Where there were once a single people, the bhan, there are now many groups—though most humanoids acknowledge they are ethnicities of a single people, and can generally interbreed. And of course, some are the drau, who appear no different than their non-drau brethren until they ingest so much fel energy their eyes, hair, or both are bleached to a uniform white. Most towns fear the drau, but it is hard to say who is and isn’t until a drau has vast powers.

Starfinder Species in Really Wild West (Part 2)

We went over why it’s worthwhile to consider where the species from the Starfinder Roleplaying Game have major population centers in the world of Really Wild West (and why we won’t be using them as stand-ins to replace the humans of any real-world culture) in the first post in this series, where we also looked at the RWW take on androids. We continue our look at this idea with the kasatha and lashunta. It’s worth repeating that these touchstones are designed as one set of options, not absolute rules. Just as humans from differing ethnic and cultural backgrounds can be found on every continent, so too can our new sentient, sapient species be found in every culture of the Really Wild West.

RealWildWest-Races-lines-02.png

Kasatha

Since one of the big defining traits of kasatha is that they have 4 arms, there’s an obvious temptation to have kasatha be linked to Hinduism, because of the prevalence of multiarmed deities in Hindu. However, Hinduism is a massive, modern religion with tens of millions of worshipers, in which things like what a deity carries in each arm can be important, and about which I am not an expert.

Looking to tie the multiarmed aspect to something less crucial than gods, Greek mythology has numerous multiarmed humanoids such as the Gegenees, and Hecatonchires. Though these are presented as giants, that just also gives me a place for Shobads. And there’s lots of ancient and closer-to-18901 history involving Greeks that is fascinating and interesting, which can help serve as context for kasatha players.

So if the Greek empires were all mix of human and kasatha, by the modern era of Really Wild West that can be expected to have large populations throughout Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia. Greek ships were visiting the Americas by the early 1600s, and a significant Greek community developed in New Orleans during the 1850s. By the 1890 there were tens of thousands of Greeks in North America alone, many of them from the Ottoman Empire.

Lashunta

One of the defining traits of lashunta is their telepathy, which makes placing them in the world a bit tricky, because what westerns think of as telepathy doesn’t really have any notable real-world equivalents, even in theory or fiction, prior to the 1800s, which is too late to form a culture from that is well established by 1891. However, the Japanese idea of ishin-denshin (literally “”what the mind thinks, the heart transmits”) certainly seems similar to telepathy. That idea seems to have developed in China where it has links to traditions of Zen Buddhism.

So, having lashunta have developed in Asia, with strong populations in places where Zen Buddhism is prevalent (China, Japan, Korean, Vietnam) gives cultural texture to how the actual power of telepathy in Really Wild West might have been viewed in varying real-world cultures. It’s important to note that lashunta don’t replace any of those real-world cultures or the religious and philosophical advancements they created. But it does give context for how to view a fictional species in a historic framework. And all those nations have rich histories that include massive exploration, trade, and diplomacy as well as immigration which can place an Asian-origin lashunta anywhere in the world a player wants to be from (even before allowing for lashunta families who may have migrated from those nations centuries ago).

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Starfinder Species in Really Wild West

When running a Really Wild West game, which takes Starfinder Roleplaying Game concepts and sets them in a weird west version of the real world in 1891, one of the questions that can come up is where the nonhuman species come from. Given how much cultures and nations and lone people can interact, overlap, and move around, any individual character can obviously be from anywhere—in real-world history it’s easy to find Japanese expatriates in Manila and Mexico in the early 1600s, so ethnicity, nationality, and geography aren’t always as linked as typical examples of each might suggest.

But a question remains of where the most common cultures and ethnicities of various nonhuman species are found. It’s a bad idea to replace entire real-world ethnic groups with nonhumans, since that erases the possibilities of real-world options and may tell a player that their actual ancestry isn’t important enough to keep, but if we are presenting a world where dozens (or even hundreds) of species are sharing the planet, it makes sense to consider where our fictional species fit reasonable well with real-world culture, and key those as major cultural and population centers for kasatha and lashutna and others.

This is especially important for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game species. It’s easy to place dwarves, elves, gnomes, haflings, half-elves, and half-orcs in the European areas that inspired them and that lots of fantasy and modern games have drawn from to build fictional cultures for them. You can assume they all overlap with humanity 100%, or make the major population centers line up with the countries you think make interesting matches—perhaps dwarves are German and elves are French. Or perhaps dwarves are French, elves are Germanic, and gnomes Russian or Scandinavian, and orcs Spanish. There’s enough fiction and game material with those races to make it easy to build or match cultures to serve as backgrounds for them.

But there’s not nearly as much material to draw on for androids (especially as Really Wild West envisions them), vesk, or ysoki, and even less for kasatha and lashunta. Since the Really Wild West is set in an alternate version of the real world, if I want to place these new species somewhere I need to either think of places where I can add them to the existing populations, or add new places. I could slap a few new small continents—Atlantis. Lemuria, and Mu come to mind—in the middle of oceans to give me new space for new cultures if I wanted to, but that’d take a lot more effort than I am looking to do just to create some cultural touchstones.

It seems perfectly reasonable in a campaign setting that adds multiple new sapient, sentient species to a fantasy version of the real world to have those species be tied primarily to specific regions or cultures, so that is the approach I took here. That leaves the question of where to place each of these species primary population centers, and for that I looked at each in turn to determine what core feature or concept helps define each and how those can be integrated into existing real-world regions.

I used real-world art references for the art order representing clothing and styles for these new species. That’s not to suggest that all of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game species come from only these regions or look like the characters below, but it’s a baseline to give GM and players something to draw from.

Over the next few posts I’ll give some details where each of these new species is being centered in the world of Really Wild West, and why, beginning with the androids.

RealWildWest-Races-color-01

Android

Androids in the Really Wild West (far left) are visually and culturally notably different from androids in standard Starfinder Roelplaying Game campaigns. Given the 1890s aesthetic of the RWW, androids are presented as old-school robots, closer to Metropolis than Blade Runner. They could never pass for human. They function with the same rules, but the definition of android in this campaign is closer to “humanlike in form” than “machine that passed for human.”

Complex machines claiming to be automatons and clockworks did exist in the era, perhaps the most famous of which is the chess-playing automaton created in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen of the Hapsburg Empire, who usefully for our purposes also created a speaking machine. While von Kempelen’s chess-playing machine was not a true automaton (it hid a chess player in its integral cabinet), that looks a fine origin for our manlike machines. If the first automatons were created in 1770 in the Hapsburg empire, they can easily have spread to be much farther and wider by 1891. The Austro-Hungarian Empire that formed out of the Austrian Empire that followed the Hapsburg Empire is a European melting pot, and numerous immigrants from that region moved to  New York City, Pittsburgh, and Chicago early in the 1800s, and then were part of the century.

We can assume that older androids are from the Austria and Hungary regions, and newer ones likely constructed in the big cities of New York City, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. At some point some form of Turing Test has developed, and androids have won recognition as “people” in the United States, Mexico, and most industrialized nations of the world. But they lack strong family roots, and are often looking for opportunities to make a life for themselves.

We’ll address the kasatha, lashunta, shirren, vesk, and ysoki soon!

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Updated List of Very Fantasy Words

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More Species-Based Insults and Exclamations for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game

My post on a d6 each worth of species-based insults and exclamations for androids, shirren, humans, and ysoki from yesterday was much more popular than I expected (I picked up three new backers for my Patreon in one day).
So, even though no one asked for them, let’s round out the Starfinder Roleplaying Game core races with kasatha, lashunta, and vesk!

Species-Specific Insults

Kasatha
1. Faceless coward
2. Hat-rack
3. Spikehead
4. Hipless freak
5. Brain-slicer
6. Dust-muncher

Lashunta
1. Mind-peeper
2. Bug-elf (or) Dwarf-beetle
3. Lizard-lover
4. Data-licker
5. Cantrip-Humper
6. Meritrollop

Vesk
1. Heatless lump lizard
2. Pea-brain
3. Deathmongering war-worshipper
4. Walking suitcase
5. Doshclod
6. Cloac-er (Short for cloaca-frudder)

Species Specific Exclamations

Kasatha
1. Lips!
2. Sandhead
3. By the long journey
4. Slivers!
5. Doyen-sucker
6. Waster (or) Waste of Space (or) Useless Waste

Lashunta
1. Ignorance-eater
2. Mindblind
3. Sewer-head
4. LYING!
5. Meritless (or) Unwarranted
6. It’s a Gift of Nothingness, and You Took It.

Vesk
1. Loser (or) Coward
2. Weaponless Wonder
3. Timid Teeth
4. By the Three Blades!
5. Backstabber (or) Traitor (or) Backstab!
6. Cloac-er (Still short for cloaca-frudder)

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Species-Based Insults for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game

In a podcast I was doing, someone claimed they’d throw Patreon money my way if I’d post 1d6 (each) curse words for Androids, Ysoki, Shirren, and Humans. Not one to pass up a writing challenge that involves making money, I here I am doing that.

But.

I’ve talked about fictional cursewords before and, while I wish it went without saying, it seems prudent to mention that there are pales fictional swearing shouldn’t go. Yes, people cuss. Yes, that can be a useful and interesting part of roleplaying. But especially when looking at species-based cussing, never bring gender, real-world ethnicity, socio-political position, religion, or anything else rooted in reality into it. We should be roleplaying to have fun, and that needs to stay away from language that uses real differences between us as insults or stand-ins for bad language.

No one should be so attached to fictional deity Klono that explaining Holy—Klono’s—Iridium—Intestines!” is going to upset anybody. But as soon as you use any real-world (or even thinly veiled from real world) elements in your cussing, you are risking other people’s feelings in the name of a drop of color for a not-real person, and that’s not cool.

With that said, here’s four d6 lists of:

Species-Based Insults

Androids
1. Piece of Synth
2. Circuitface
3. Custom-built slave labor
4. Milk-for-guts*
5. Rent-a-soul**
6. Digi-brain
*Assuming the android leaks white goo like the ones from Aline/Aliens do. This doesn’t have to be true, just a common cultural opinion.
**Based on dislike of the android renewal process

Shirren
1. Boneless wonder*
2. Spiderbait
3. Hiveless drone
4. Fangneck
5. Chitten-butt
6. Buffet-stuffer**
*Assuming they have eskeletons
**A suggestion that the shirren is food, and belongs on a buffet.

Humans
1. Mindblind lashunta
2. Worldless
3. Breeder
4. Sweat factory
5. Clawless/toothless/tailless
6. Spunthole

Ysoki
1. Rat-tailed
2. Fleabag
3. Scavenger
4. Hairball
5. Plaguemouth
6. Junk-waffle

And then four 1d6 lists of:
Species-Specific Exclamations!

Androids
1. Slaver
2. Meatbags
3. Genebait
4. Glitching (or) Son-of-Glich
5. Sparks
6. Sagging (or) Wrinkled*
*Since androids don’t show signs of age.

Shirren
1. Swarming (or) Swarmed (or) Swarm-mind
2. Repetitive (or) Predictable (or) just Reps!
3. Thoughtless
4. Parasites!
5. Compound Stupid*
6. Webbing! (or) Webhole (or) Webtastic
*As in, stupid seen through a hundred compound eyes

Humans
1. Frudd
2. Godsdammerung
3. Lose it! (or) Lost!
4. Genejoke
5. Twist (or) Twist You (or) This is twisted!
6. Spunthole

Ysoki
1. Traps!
2. Fleabag
3. Itches (or) Itch-laden (or) Son-of-an-Itch!
4. Hairballs
5. Matted
6. Pinkies

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Gizmos in Really Wild West (for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game)

Gizmos
Since no one is expected to wear armor in the Really Wild West setting hack for the Starfinder Roleplaying Game, “armor upgrades” aren’t really part of the setting. However, everything that functions as an armor upgrade in the core rules is still available- it just exists in the form of an advanced speculative principles device that builds off stellar alloys, theosophic imbuement techniques, compression gears, heat-ray crystal capacitors, vril, or some other weird science from ancient ruins, Martian wrecks, lost civilizations, or mad scientists.

These are commonly know as “gizmos.”

Gizmos are most common among people who operate on the fringes of society, be they adventurers, bandits, mad scientists, or peacekeepers who have to deal with all those other categories. Gizmos often have a very steampunk aesthetic, with bronze a common material (thanks to its theosophic and anti-corrosion properties), leather straps, buckles, and some nice detail work.

Anyone can use a single gizmo, but it takes skill to use more than one gizmo at a time, or to even have more than one rigged properly to be used simultaneously. You can have ready (and in use at one time) one gizmo, plus one for every kind of armor you are proficient with (the main use of armor proficiency in Really Wild West), plus one additional gizmo per 3 character levels. Armor upgrades that take two armor upgrade slots count as two gizmos for this limit once translated into the RWW. Rigging up a gizmo for use, or putting one way, takes 6 rounds.

Here are the Really Wild West gizmo names and descriptions for Starfinder Roleplaying Game armor upgrades. Each gizmo functions the same way as the armor upgrade it is modeled after (listed in parenthesis), except as noted in each description below.

RealWildWest-Equipment001-color-01

Aetheric Shields (Force Fields)
Aetheric shields are tiny aetheric generators retooled to work in reverse—rather than taking aetheric currents from the ethereal plane and turning them into electricity, they take electricity and turn them into an aetheric flow that surrounds and (modestly) protects the wearer. The power crystal of an aetheric shield turns the color of the force field it emulates.

Amazing Martian Fighting Shield (titan shield)
This is just one example of the names people use when they take a plate of stellar alloy from a Martian fighting machine, and add straps, and turn it into a shield. It’s big and heavy, so if you use it, you can’t do anything else with that arm.

Babbage Scope (targeting computer)
A Babbage scope takes readings through numerous small lenses, tracks information through a small built-in brass Babbage analytical engine, and predicts where partially concealed targets most likely are.

Crystal Goggles (Infrared Sensors)
The same crystal technology that makes Martian heat rays possible can be turned into red-lenses goggles, that allow you to see heat. Among the most common of gizmos, since you can make several from a smashed Trip’s heat rays.

DaVinci Wings (Jetpacks)
It turns out with energized cavorite (an antigravity metal that can have its gravity- neutralizing properties boosted with an electrical current) and compression gears, some of DaVinci’s designs for powered flight can function.

Dragonhide Duster (thermal capacitor)
While killing true dragons is rarely both practical and moral, drakes and other draconic creatures can be a serious threat in the frontier, and once slain their hides easily take to theosophic infusion to become clothing that stays warm, but never gets hot.

Doctor Cavor’s Resplendent Repellent Field (deflective reinforcement)
Dr. Cavor, the woman who created Cavorite and who has had the most success with Martial technology involving stellar alloys, has built just a few of these prototype devices, that normally take the form of a large metal gauntlet with several crystals and dials. It can push anything away, rather than just alter gravity as most Cavorite devices do.

Float Pack (force pack)
Though it is extremely rare for one of the few Martian flying machines to have one of it’s floater units removed while still functional, when that task is accomplished, a spectacular backpack-style device that allows amazing flight can be crafted from it.

Gas Mask (filtered rebreather)
The threat of Martian Black Smoke forced every nation of the Earth to seek better ways to protect against airborne poisons. Since Really Wild West doesn’t use armor like the core rules do, this gas mask can be considered to work for 5 weeks (though you can break that down into 35 periods of 24 1-hour increments), and then need significant cleaning and refurbishment (costing 10 credits per hour restored). It only applies to inhaled diseases and poisons, though the same cost could be applied to a Diving Helmet and Suit.

Gun Carriage (Automated Loader)
Of use only to wearers of Iron Soldier suits or Tripods (powered armor), a gun carriage is a system of complex clockwork systems that can eject casings and ammo belts, and reload new ones.

Huckster’s Sheath (quick-release sheath)
A spring-loaded sheath designed to be kept up the sleeve, and often considered a sign of low moral character.

Hush Coat (sonic dampener)
This short, leather jacket has gear-shaped metal studs arranged unevenly along its surface, and a dial control at the wrist. It uses a small aetheric generator and retuned Martian heat-ray crystals to creates sounds that perfectly muffle sounds made by the wearer.

Iron Hercules (load lifter)
The Iron Hercules ™ is a compressed air pistol-driven exoframe powered by an aetheric generator to increase your carrying capacity. Also called a “pocket mule” when built and sold by dastards who don’t have the right to the patent.

Jack’s Spring-Heels (jump jets)
Compressed pneumatic pistols running along the calf (and anchored to protective knee braces) drive down, sending you up (or forward). One of the most popular gizmos first designed by Professor “Gentleman Jack” Jersey.

Leyden Gears (backup generator)
These reverse-engineered compression gears are strapped to the arms or legs (or both), and turn your movement into electricity to recharge a battery. It can be connected to a battery belt.

Radium Belt (radiation buffer)
Designed from devices created by Mdm Curie, radium belts protect you from the “poison metals” called radioactive by learned types.

Storm Grommets (electrostatic field)
Storm grommets are small metal rings that can be attached on outwear, with each grommet connected by a high-conductivity wire to a capacitor battery, allowing you to both absorb electrical damage and create an electrical field that shocks anyone that touches you.

Temporal Adjustor (haste circuit)
Only pocket-watches created by famed punctualist Phileas Fogg are capable to being imbued theosophically with the concept of “saving time” that is so powerful, it actually allows the user to temporarily slow all the rest of the universe.

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Really Wild West Science Agents (For Starfinder)

Science Agents

The room smelled strongly of sulfur, with scorch marks covering one wall and the adjacent floor and roof. Something had clearly exploded, driving fragments of wood away from the burned wall and scattering shattered glass, torn pages, and bent metal implements across the small space.

Rosa Abascal crouched near what appeared to be the origin of the detonation, careful to keep only the soles of her feet in contact with the ground, and dragged one gloved finger through the residue. It was dry, but still bright red and shiny, the color of blood.

“You see Agent Abascal?” The agitated man behind her was obviously nervous, but Rosa had found Americans were often nervous around her. Honestly, most men were nervous around her. An inevitable consequence of her badge and gun. But he sounded sincerely frightened, and has not tried to move closer to her, even when she turned her back on him. It was a risk she could only take because she trusted her partner to react faster than any fat businessman, though she also had her other hand close enough to the knife in her boot to handle any aggression herself if necessary.

But the American wasn’t moving any further into the room than the doorway, and he nearly vomited out his loud concerns.

“You smell it, don’t you Agent? Brimstone! And with these strange books and idols and runes? Satanists have infiltrated my mine, and summoned demons! I’d have called a marshal, but…”
But, thought Rosa, this close to the border we’d arrive faster. Or he had hoped we’d fail to notice something.

The room darkened slightly, and Rosa turned to see her partner, Agent Garza, stepping past the nervous American. She raised her fingertip, to let Garza see the mix of residual blasting powder and powdered stellar metals. He grunted, and nodded past the door to the scrublands beyond.

“Looks like a small group kept their horses in a nearby arroyo until recently.” Garza spoke in Esperanto, as was his habit. The Científicos’s rules on the use of the new hopefully universal lingua franca weren’t official yet, but Garza always liked to be just ahead of the rules.

“But the horses were scattered a day or two ago, and only one set of hoofprints are deep enough to have had a rider,” Garza finished.

Rosa nodded. She had kept one eye on the American, and not only did she not think he understood Esperanto, she was pretty sure he didn’t realize it wasn’t Spanish. That meant he was unlikely to give anything away with a reaction to Agent Garza’s report, but Rosa was fairly sure he didn’t know anything he wasn’t saying. His fear at the thought of demons seemed as genuine as it was unwarranted.

Rosa stood, and showed the American her fingertip, though she knew he was unlikely to grasp the relevance.

“Not demons, señor. Demolitions. Whoever stayed here was experimenting with a mix of stellar ores and explosives. Cavorite, most likely, or potentially even red mercury.”

The American looked confused, and then relieved. Rosa took out a small hand kerchief, and thoroughly cleaned her glove’s fingertip.

“So… there’s nothing to worry about!” The American seemed pleased. “You can return to your side of the border and…”

Agent Garza interrupted, speaking in English.

“No, sir. There’s no sign of planar visitors, but that’s far from saying there’s no danger. Such metals are rare and expensive. For someone to have had enough to leave this much residue, “he gestured to the scorchmarks covering half the cabin’s interior “almost certainly means he found a Martian fighting machine, or possibly an embankment machine, and scavenged from it.:

Rosa nodded, and she folded her kerchief, and laid it on the broken remains of the room’s table.

“If there’s more such metal, whoever experimented here might salvage enough for a bomb that could threaten a town or small city. Or, worse, there might be canisters of black smoke, or dormant red weed. It’s crucial we find the machine before anything left with it is activated or unleashed.”

“But…” the Amercian paused. “If the trail leads further into Texan territory… “

Rosa was already headed to her horse.

“If there’s a significant threat to the region as a whole, science agents are empowered by our government to operate wherever necessary.”

Her glove’s fingertip burst into flame, and the fire quickly began to spread to the ruined table. The cabin was on a patch of bare dirt, and bordered on three sides by rock. The flames would eliminate the cabin and any residues, and spread no farther.

In a world where weird science and theosophic magic are real, of course positivism cannot deny the existence of strange powers. What it CAN insist on is a rigorous testing of such powers and an analysis of how they function. In the Really Wild West, it has become crucially important for governments and major agencies to be able to tell the mysterious from the mystic, and the revolutionary from the disastrous. Among those with the best track record and reputation for such needs are the science agents of the Mexican Porfiriate.

Science Agent Archetype

Science agents are special federal law officers who work directly for the Científicos, the government council of scientist ministers and directors who are guiding Mexico into a new age of rationalism and modernity. They act as investigators, law keepers, trackers, spies, troubleshooters, and paramilitary advisers. They are respected as one of the great peacekeeping forces in North America, on par with the Canadian Mounties, Dread Templars, Justicers, Pinketons,Texas Rangers, and U.S. Martials.

Most science agents train at the Hall of Science in Mexico City, though it is also possible for a science agent to take a single deputy cadet and train them, with either method taking between 1 and 4 years depending on the cadet’s aptitude and previous education. All science agents must swear to apply the scientific method over intuition or superstition, and to protect Mexico in specific, and humanity, rational thought, and science in general. There is no other official requirement, and the Porfiriate’s insistence on promotion and decision-making based on evidence-based investigation has lead to a series of standards cadets must meet that do not include any gender, religion, age, or level of formal education. Anyone who can pass the strenuous entrance exams, which focus on logical thought (but not specific previous knowledge of any scientific principles), determination, and basic physical ability, may attempt to become a science agent. Roughly 1 in 5 cadets finish the course, but that number includes equal numbers of men, women, urbanites, and rural citizens.

Science agents are often given great latitude to track down potential threats, and often operate outside of Mexico. There legal authority to do so is questionable at best, but their strong reputation causes most honest folks to give the silver-eagle badges of the science agents some leeway as long as they aren’t committing crimes themselves.

Alternate Class Features

Scientific Method (Ex): At 2nd level, a science agent has learned enough about how theosophy, Martian technology, psychic phenomenon, planar creatures, and advanced science work to be able to examine an area and determine if anything in it is magical. This functions as detect magic, except it is an extraordinary ability. Additionally, a number of times per day equal to the science agent’s key ability score bonus, she can attempt to identify an item’s function as the identify spell, but as an extraordinary ability and using a character level check in place of a Mysticism or Engineering check. A science agent also gains a +2 bonus to AC and saving throws against attacks and effects from a specific object she successfully identified.

At this level a science agent also learns Esperanto and either English or French.

Keen Observer (Ex): At 4th level a science agent may choose from one of two abilities. The first is an insight bonus equal to half her character level to checks with any two of the following skills: Diplomacy, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival. If either selected skill is not a class skill, it becomes a class skill. If the science agent has a feat that grants an insight bonus to either of these skills, she may retrain that feat immediately, or at the beginning of any future level, for a feat she meets the prerequisites for at 4th level.

Alternatively, the science agent may choose to gain blindsense (sound) with a range of 30 feet and blindsense (scent) with a range of 10 feet.

The choices made with this ability cannot be changed.

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